Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Faith Works 7-5-08
Jeff Gill

An Errand, Interrupted and Fulfilled

In the back seat, the small boy noticed that his dad’s attention was swinging off the road in front off to one side.

The car slowed, and then bumped along the shoulder to a stop.

“Are we stopping here, dad?”

“Yes, just for a moment.”

“Should I get out?”

“No, son, just stay put. I won’t be long.”

His dad got out of the car, and walked around the front and jumped over a ditch into an unfenced back yard. Just then another car slowed and stopped on the shoulder just ahead, and another man got out of his car.

The boy watched as his father walked into a yard where a flagpole sat in a garden, with a flag dangling in the geraniums and marigolds off of a swinging rope. They had driven through a quick rainstorm preceded by stiff winds just before, and the sun was coming out accompanied by a brisk, erratic breeze.

As the boy’s dad picked the flag gently out of the flowers, he reached up to the pole where a cleat had torn loose from the pole itself. When he began to unclip the flag from the rope hanging off the pulley far above, the other man who had stopped his car walked up.

From where he sat, there was no conversation between the two adult men, just a glance at each other, and as the boy’s dad finished unclipping the United States flag, the other man picked up the striped end of Old Glory just like they had practiced at a Cub Scout meeting a few weeks before.

He watched as they stepped back from each other, smoothly folded the flag lengthwise once, twice, and then stepped even further from each other, pulling the flag taut, as the strange man began to fold and flip the flag into the proper triangles, ending as he should have with an all blue and starry triangle shaped like a tricorn hat. He handed it to the boy’s dad, and stepped back, saluted him, and walked away. The dad walked up to the porch, arms folded over the damp but properly folded flag, laid the neat bundle on a chair by the sliding glass door, and walked back to the car.

When he got inside, the other car had pulled away.

“Dad, did you know that other man?”

“No, son, he must have seen the same thing we did.”

“You mean the flag that blew down?”


“Do you know who lives there, Dad?”

“No, but it seems like they put their flag up before the storm blew through, so they wouldn’t have known that it all would have pulled apart like that. We saw it on the ground driving by earlier, and it was still there, so I just wanted to get it off the ground. That must have been what the other fellow thought, too.”

“If you didn’t know him, how did you both know . . . I don’t get it.”

“Son, we both know how to care for the flag, and we both felt bad about seeing it drag around in the dirt. Someone taught each of us to fold a flag properly, so we could work together just fine.”

“So you both just knew?”

“We knew we needed to . . . keep the faith. We owed it to the ones who taught us how to show respect, and those we’re showing respect for. It’s not the flag itself, really, it’s . . .”

“I know – it’s what the flag stands for that we are respecting. And the flag represents our country, right?”

“That’s right. So I hope the people living there don’t mind.”

“Won’t they be glad it was folded right?”

“Sure. And I hope they have some idea why we did it.”

“To get the flag out of the garden, and keep it clean?”

“Well, that; and about keeping the faith, with those . . .”

“Who taught you how to fold it the right way?”


“You taught me how to fold it right, and we practiced. I bet I could help, next time we see a flag on the ground.”

“Then I won’t even need to have another fellow stop and come help me, will I?”

“Nope! I can help you, uh, keep the faith, Dad.”

“Thank you, Son.”

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio, and he’s gotten to teach many Cub Scouts how to fold flags at Camp Falling Rock. Tell him about how you’ve taught others to help “keep the faith” at

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